Will Harris has a new position.
“He’s a cafety,” Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell joked Thursday. “Yeah, he’s a hybrid. He really is. He’s a jack of all trades.”
Harris played three positions in the Lions’ injury-riddled secondary last fall, starting games at safety, cornerback and slot corner.
He opened the season as a starting safety alongside Tracy Walker, transitioned to slot cornerback after A.J. Parker went on injured reserve in late November, then moved outside when Parker returned and after Jerry Jacobs went down with a torn ACL.
Harris finished last season as the Lions’ No. 1 cornerback, after Amani Oruwariye underwent surgery for a broken thumb. And though he allowed a career-high 73.4% completion percentage and five touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference, he gave the Lions’ depleted secondary valuable reps and endeared himself to coaches in the process.
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Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn compared Harris last season to longtime Saints defensive back P.J. Williams last winter, and Campbell said Thursday “part of his strength is his versatility.”
“That’s one of his greatest attributes, which we came to find out last year,” Campbell said. “I mean, we wouldn’t have known that. You guys heard me talk about it. We would have not known that had we not had the injuries and COVID and everything else. So I think he’s a jack of all trades.”
Campbell said the Lions still are deciding how to deploy Harris when formal offseason workouts start later this month.
The Lions have no clear-cut starter to pair with Walker at safety, though they could find that player in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. They are deeper at cornerback with Oruwariye and Parker back and after signing Mike Hughes in free agency, but Jacobs and Jeff Okudah (Achilles) are on the mend from injuries and could be limited in training camp this summer.
In one capacity or another, Harris could play a key role in the Lions secondary this fall.
“We’re still talking right now, you just go out Day 1, do you put him at corner? Do you put him at safety?” Campbell said. “And I’ll be honest with you, we haven’t just locked that down right now. We’re still kind of talking about it. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s not a bad thing.”
Levi’s big leap
Campbell said he expects 100% participation, or close to it, in the Lions’ offseason program.
Already, several players, including 2021 draft picks Penei Sewell and Levi Onwuzurike, have been working out in Allen Park. And Campbell said Onwuzurike appears to have undergone a body transformation.
“He looks good,” Campbell said. “I know it’s early and we’re only in early April, but you can tell he’s been working. That says something. That says something to you, without saying anything.”
A second-round pick out of Washington, Onwuzurike had a quiet rookie season after missing time in training camp with a back injury. He finished with 35 tackles and one sack in 16 games, and is expected to play a key role on the defensive front this fall.
“I know he’s of the right mindset,” Campbell said. “I mean, even just talking to him when he left. First of all, he wasn’t going to leave, he was going to stick around here for a while, which he did. And he’s been working. Went back home for a little bit then he’s come back up, so he’s put his money where his mouth is. I know that from a training standpoint. He’s got enough pride and he knows what he needs to do and everybody learns at a different rate in this league. It takes a while. Some guys get it right now and some guys it just, to go and develop and figure things out a little bit, and so I expect him to have a better year.”